Mindy Kaling is used to being in the spotlight, but today it was her brother who found himself at the center of a media firestorm. Vijay Chokalingam, the sitcom star’s older brother, is writing a book to show that affirmative action is discriminatory based on his claims that he changed his appearance in 1998 and joined the Black student organization to increase his odds of becoming a doctor.
“I was determined to become a doctor and I knew that admission standards for certain minorities under affirmative action were, let’s say … less stringent?” Chokalingam, who is of Southeast Asian origin, says on his website, AlmostBlack.com. (The site is intended to attract interest from publishers for a book deal.)
Besides changing his name to "Jojo," Chokalingam says he altered his appearance to fit his narrative: "[I] shaved my head, trimmed my long Indian eyelashes, and applied to medical school as a Black man.”
Chokalingam, who ended up getting his MBA instead of an MD, says his plan worked. “I got into medical school because I said I was Black. The funny thing is I’m not… My plan actually worked. Lucky for you, I never became a doctor.”
This is where people have started taking issue with Chokalingam's story. Though he says he “became a serious contender” for acceptance into medical school at Columbia, Harvard, and Penn State, he cites form letters sent to many students after college fairs as proof of his claims. Chokalingam ended up getting an acceptance letter from only one school, St. Louis University School of Medicine.
Anti-affirmative actioners have seized upon Chokalingam's story to invalidate the institution that has — according to some, at least — made huge strides in leveling the playing field for college. Naturally, those who stand on the "pro" side of affirmative action take issue with his so-called experiment and his creative license with facts.
Chokalingam doesn't stop with affirmative action. As a result of his new identity, he says, he experienced much racism while posing as Black. “Cops harassed me. Store clerks accused me of shoplifting. Women were either scared of me or couldn’t keep their hands off me,” he claims. “What started as a devious ploy to gain admission to medical school turned into a twisted social experiment.”
So far, there is no word whether a publisher has taken the bait and offered Chokalingam a book deal. Perhaps he can pose as his famous sister to get through that door.
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(Photo: Vijay Chokalingam via Twitter, Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Variety)